Dr. Norman Haffner’s Impact Will Be Relevant for Generations

Norman-Haffner-1.jpgThere is no individual in the history of the profession of optometry that has had quite the impact on public health policy more than Alden Norman Haffner, OD ’52, PhD (New York University, ’64), DSc (Hon.) ’73, FAAO.

In many ways, the evolution of the profession of optometry has paralleled the leadership and the message Dr. Haffner provided in all segments of the profession – from the students in the classroom to the professional frontrunners of organized optometry. It was he who brought the public health imperative to a fledgling profession at a time when it was defining its role in the healthcare landscape. His leadership within the public health community provided an invaluable bridge to the optometric profession and vice versa.
A 1948 graduate of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Dr. Haffner earned his optometry degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) in 1952, and later earned his MPA and PhD from New York University (NYU). In 1956, he helped establish the Optometric Center of New York City and was a leader in obtaining a charter for the establishment of the State College of Optometry under the auspices of the State University of New York (SUNY) in Manhattan.
Dr. Haffner became the first dean and president of the SUNY’s College of Optometry in New York City in 1971 and remained president for a decade. He was later appointed vice chancellor for Research, Graduate Studies and Professional Programs. In this position, he was responsible for all post-baccalaureate programs, professional programs and research activity of SUNY’s College of Optometry. Subsequently, a decade after his work as vice chancellor, Dr. Haffner returned to SUNY Optometry in 1988 and begun his second stretch as president of the college until his retirement in 2005.

As an Army veteran, Dr. Haffner fought to resolve a number of public health issues during his career. In 1987, he became an active member on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) top-level health care advisory panel, the VA Special Medical Advisory Group (SMAG). During his 25 years of service on this panel – the longest anyone has served on SMAG— Dr. Haffner helped to advance health care for veterans by improving access to eye care in the VA system.

Dr. Haffner was a Diplomate in the Public Health Section of the American Academy of Optometry and he received both PCO’s Alumni Association’s Alumnus of the Year Award in 1962, and the Distinguished Service Award in 1965. He served as president of the Public Health Association of New York City and received the association’s prestigious Haven Emerson Award in 1977. In 1995, at PCO’s 75th anniversary, he received the Presidential Medal of Honor.

He was the founding chair of the New York City’s Community Family Planning Council, an organization that improves access to quality health care services for low-income and uninsured residents, was awarded the Eminent Service Award from the American Academy of Optometry and was inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame in 2000. A catalyst in the optometric profession, Dr. Haffner had nearly 200 scholarly publications during his career, mostly in the fields of public health, healthcare policy and optometric education.

He retired in 2005 and passed away on June 22, 2016, at the age of 87-years-old.

Norman Haffner and Salus University Individuals
Salus University honored the contributions and legacy of Dr. Haffner through the establishment of a faculty chair in Health Policy within its Master of Public Health Program. It is dedicated to the continuation of his career-long work of serving society through the advancement of public health education and practice in optometry. The Haffner Chair will serve as a catalyst for the profession of optometry to recommit itself to public health ideals in order to secure and enhance the profession’s role in the nation’s future health system.